Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be on the Michigan leg of his three-day “Education and the Economy” tour of the midwest. According to his published itinerary, he will be starting the day in Detroit.
…where he will join Gov. Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts for an event at Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science to highlight recent steps initiated by the state and city of Detroit to provide better support and turn around persistently low-performing schools across Michigan…
According to the coverage that I’ve heard on Michigan Radio, the event is being billed as a “town hall meeting.” Unfortunately, though, it appears to be a “town hall” in name only, as it’s not open to the public. At least that’s the sense I get from the NPR report, which states, “Two hundred people are expected to attend the invitation-only event.” How much do you want to bet that none of the young mothers who were dragged by police from the recently closed Catherine Ferguson Academy were among those invited?
I’d love it if this were a real town hall meeting, and people from around the City were encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the closing of their neighborhood schools, and the fact that high school class sizes have, as of this new school year, swelled to 60. But that’s not what this event will be about. This event will be about politicians congratulating themselves on making the “hard decisions” necessary to keep public education alive. Snyder will talk about all of the money saved by our well-paid, and unelected Emergency Financial Managers, who have been given free reign to break union contracts and impose their brand of business discipline on our school districts. And maybe folks will even talk enthusiastically about the next step in this crusade to “save” public education, as outlined by State Senator Phil Pavlov – the privatization of teachers.
I’d like to think that the Secretary of Education would come in asking hard questions, and challenging the longterm effectiveness of these initiatives, but, given what I just read in the Free Press, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Here’s the relevant clip.
…”I’m more optimistic today about Detroit’s future than probably any time in the past two and a half years,” Duncan said during a phone interview with the Free Press. “I’m very encouraged by the leadership and the courage that’s being shown.”…
Since when is it courageous to stuff 60 poor kids in a classroom with an ill-equipped, under-payed and overwhelmed teacher? When I think of courage, I think of the young mothers at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, willing to be arrested rather than just stand by passively as their beloved school is closed… Someone should read the definition of courage to Duncan.
I can’t be there tomorrow, but I hope to God that people show up in large numbers and attempt to force their way in and bring a hint of reality to the proceedings. I’d love to see Duncan, Snyder and company asked by the parent of a child in the Detroit Public School system about the recent decision to push high school class sizes to 60. I’d love to hear them make the case that warehousing kids in this way will lead to anything but more young people either on unemployment or in jail. And I’d love to hear them explain the decision to close the Catherine Ferguson Academy – the one school that really was showing some success in breaking the multi-generational chain of poverty by working intensely with young mothers, and getting them into college.
As Duncan’s tour is supposed to be all about the connection between education and economic well-being, I think a discussion about the Catherine Ferguson Academy would be incredibly relevant. But, it won’t happen. No one will raise the point that money spent on inner city education now is money saved on prisons in the future. Because, the truth is, no one cares. Voters like building prisons almost as much as they hate the idea of their tax dollars going to educate the children of those they perceive as irresponsible welfare queens. And that’s why we’re doomed.
The Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science, for those who would like to show up tomorrow morning, is at 19299 Berg Road, in Detroit.
[note: According to MM.com reader Teacher Patti, who teaches in the Detroit Public School System, as of this year, class sizes are as follows: 40 (k-3), 45 (4-5), 50 (6-8), 60 (9-12).]